By Noah Chen
She grew up in a self-described “hippy neighborhood” around Lake Claire in Atlanta and became familiar with herbs at a local grocery store and co-op, but Lorna Mauney-Brodek decided to go in a different direction at first.
“I rebelled against all that and ran away to college in New York City,” she says.
While in New York, Mauney-Brodek “hid out” in parks to get away from the urban bustle. Eventually she found an herb shop in Greenwich Village where she passed the time. “I loved it. It made me feel good, and it seemed to satisfy me in a bunch of different ways.”
Herbalism combined Mauney-Brodek’s love of nature, people and social work so much that she moved to Italy to work on an herb farm.
When she returned to Atlanta four years later, she worked as a foot clinic coordinator with an organization that cared for the homeless and underserved. The experience inspired her to start a free herb clinic. She created a proposal and ran it past a few friends, wondering if they would call her crazy.
They didn’t. Quite the opposite.
So Mauney-Brodek launched Herbalista, and it is still going strong after five years.
One of the organization’s goals is to provide affordable healthcare using herbal remedies to a diverse clientele. It holds several events, including a monthly health fair, at which people can get free consultations and specialized packs of herbal remedies. They can also attend free classes and receive an acupuncture treatment or a Reiki session.
The organization’s mobile health clinic can be set up in parks or other locations around Atlanta, even at short notice. Residents near Woodruff Park often see the Herbalista Herb Cart offering services in the neighborhood. The company also participates in the Harriet Tubman Foot Care Clinic at Mercy Community Church in Atlanta every Monday.
Clients are evaluated and provided with herbs in a variety of forms: teas, capsules and tinctures. All services are free; donations are welcome.
Building Community Through Herbalism
Colleen Choate started attending Herbalista’s health fairs after learning about them on Instagram.
“The first time I came, I thought, ‘What is this?’ ” said Choate. She signed up for a consultation and soon was talking with one of Herbalista’s educated volunteer herbalists. “You talk through what your health concerns are and hear what they have to say. Then you get the medicine, and if it works for you, you can keep coming back!” she adds.
Choate says Herbalista has a “much different energy” than a doctor’s office: “It feels like they’re taking more time to listen to you.” She was given holy basil as it helps with both anxiety and digestive issues, which were concerns of hers.
While Choate likes to go to Herbalista to supplement her traditional healthcare, many of the organization’s clients don’t have the same option. Herbalista is often their first—and sometimes only—form of health support.
“A lot of people who come here don’t even have access to housing,” says Pamela Gould, a volunteer and counselor with Herbalista. “Our hope is that they feel respected and heard with us. It does a lot for someone’s psyche and healing.”
Its community spirit informs virtually everything Herbalista does. It has helped hundreds of people from all walks of life get assistance with their health and feel cared for. Community is also a factor in how the company is funded, relying on small community donations from individuals.
“Even if you can’t afford our services and herbs—which is understandable—no worries, it’s free!” says Mauney-Brodek.
For more information, see HerbBus.org
Image: Noah Chen